3 Tips for Creating
“I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!” — Stuart Smalley, SNL
You may remember the SNL skit “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley” which aired in the early 90s. The start and end of each skit features Stuart (Al Franken) talking to himself in a mirror, telling himself he is going to have a great show, he is going to help people, and affirming he is good, smart, and liked. This is an example of positive affirmations.
I don’t know what the original inspiration for the skit was, but Louise Hay’s work and her books were very popular in the 80s and 90s, so it is a fair guess that she figured into this parody of what was, and is, a very powerful practice of rewiring our inner dialog. But back in the 1990s, the idea that our thoughts could change our lives was considered kind of out there, woo-woo, or fringe. And to be fair, there was not much research to back it up yet.
But fast forward to today, and practically everywhere you look there is another article, post, video, or inspirational speaker sharing the benefits of positive thinking in changing our attitude to improve our lives. Books like Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” and Dr. Joe Dispenza’s “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” are compelling arguments backed by science for taking control of our thoughts. It is pretty clear now that Stuart Smalley was onto something.
So, what are positive affirmations and how do they work?
Very simply, positive affirmations are statements that create positive feelings. Positive affirmations help us rewire our brains, replacing patterns of thinking and believing that have been unhealthy, limiting, or restricting with positive thoughts that encourage our growth and healing. When they work, the positive affirmations replace negative, low-vibration thoughts with positive, high-vibration ones, improving our mood and outlook. Using the SNL character Stuart Smalley as an example, he was an overweight child of an alcoholic who used the positive affirmation above to heal his self-worth and create health, happiness, and success.
Two reasons positive affirmations don’t always work
It is true. Positive affirmations do not always work. And in my experience there are a couple of reasons for this. So, if you have tried affirmations before and did not see any results, don’t give up on them just yet. Check out these two common causes of affirmation failure, and try again.
- The first reason for affirmation failure is when the affirmation just feels untrue or unattainable. For example, if you are very sick, saying “My body is healthy, strong, and healed” will likely trigger a gut, subconscious response that is just the opposite. So every time you repeat your affirmation, you are also repeating the negative of it...“I do not feel healthy, I feel terrible!” In this way you will make no headway with your affirmation. The key to this issue is to dial down your affirmation. Make it true for you, make it more subtle. Something like “I love feeling healthy, strong, and healed,” may be believable enough that your mind does not react against it.
- The second reason I have found for affirmation failure is not doing the inner work needed to understand and release our existing patterns, beliefs, and stories. The stories we tell ourselves have been with us a long time, so long that we believe they are ours, and that they are TRUE. They came to us through childhood experiences and are passed down through generations. The issues our grandmothers did not heal are passed to our mothers, and then to us. Then there are the things we learn as kid. Up to age seven we soak up everything we experience, see, feel, and sense. So, if a parent was self-absorbed and never listened to our thoughts and feelings, we can grow up feeling unworthy, not interesting enough to deserve compassionate, loving attention. We often recreate that experience in our adult lives, relationships, careers, because a deep wound puts off a strong vibration. The stronger the initial hurt, the stronger the vibration we emit, and the more of that experience we create in our lives.
So, if we start saying a positive affirmation such as “I am worthy” or “I approve of myself” without first looking within to understand the original hurt, our affirmation is not gonna do much. This is because the intensity of the vibration of the original hurt is way more potent than the intensity of the vibration of the affirmation.
Three tips for creating positive affirmations that work
I have three suggestions for making sure your affirmations are as effective as possible.
FIRST Revisit the aspect of you who might be hiding out, hurt, feeling badly about herself. You can often access this part of yourself through body awareness. If you have an area of chronic pain, start there. Take a journey to that part of your body and start to dialog with the young, wounded you. Ask her why she is there. Ask her how you can help her. Ask her what she has to tell you.
SECOND Journal or paint your limiting beliefs. The key element of this practice is to use the canvas to release the part of yourself, the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, etc., that have been holding you back, and then, after you feel purged of that (an emotional release should accompany this process) you write all the about the transformation you are seeking. Watch the seven-minute video below to see this process.
THIRD Incorporate a surrender statement into your affirmation practice. This helps you connect to and surrender the ways in which you have limited yourself as you call in a higher power to assist you in resetting your vibration. It is much like the second suggestion, just without the paint or paper.